In the last decade, the number of people who frequently experience acid reflux and GERD has almost doubled. The number on the scale has increased for most Americans as well. For the uninitiated, GERD is a chronic form of acid reflux, characterized by frequency of symptoms, typically occurring at least twice per week.
Left untreated, GERD can cause complications such as erosive esophagitis and sleep apnea, which can impact health and quality of life. Here, we’ll explore the connection between obesity and GERD, discuss ongoing research, and cover preventative and treatment options. Read on for a complete overview of obesity and GERD, or use the links below to skip to the section you’re most interested in.
Several studies strongly suggest that obesity is a major risk factor for development of GERD, as well as related complications, including erosive esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma. But how and why are obesity and GERD connected?
There are several theories as to why obesity may contribute to GERD and other gastrointestinal issues:
While there is still research being done on the link between having GERD and being overweight, it is clear that a connection exists. So just how serious is this problem? In the United States, where the obesity rate is the highest in the world, 19.8% of the population is affected by GERD.
If you have heartburn more than twice a week or if your symptoms continue after taking over-the-counter medicine, you should see a doctor. A doctor will perform tests to look for heartburn symptoms and probably diagnose you with more severe conditions, such as GERD. Other serious symptoms, like pain when swallowing, dizziness, shortness of breath, and blood in stool may necessitate a visit to your doctor.
Now that we’ve confirmed that obesity can cause GERD, let’s take a look at how weight gain and weight loss can impact your GERD symptoms.
While obesity and weight gain in general are considered major risk factors for developing GERD and associated gastrointestinal disorders, there are several other risks to consider. Let’s take a look.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are considered vulnerabilities for GERD and acid reflux symptoms:
This long list of risk factors can impact your likelihood of experiencing acid reflux symptoms, and if left untreated, may lead to GERD. Luckily, there are several ways you can prevent acid reflux and GERD:
Yes, according to several studies, GERD may go away with weight loss or substantially reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms. According to Temple University’s publication, weight loss was shown to be an effective approach to GERD treatment in at least two instances:
While there are several approaches to GERD and acid reflux management, weight loss can be among the most effective. Remember, weight loss is different for everyone and is best monitored with the help of your physician.
With that said, here are a few general weight loss guidelines to consider:
The benefits sustaining an optimal weight go far beyond the prevention of GERD. Those who are obese can suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other problems – both physical and psychological.
As many individuals know, ongoing acid reflux is more than uncomfortable – it can cause painful symptoms, sleepless nights and lead to long-term health problems in adults and children. Given what we know about excess weight and GERD, we should all contribute to helping ourselves and younger generations steer clear of this and other obesity-related diseases.
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